In the global market (and all of Estonia’s web commerce is already competing in the global market), mere milliseconds stand between the winners and the losers!

The speed of a company’s web environment is much more important to their business than most realize at first glance. In addition to the time it takes to load the site, the aesthetics of the site impact how visitors perceive the brand as a whole.

The CEO of ADM Interactive, Riho Pihelpuu, introduced the results of a study on Estonia’s e-stores carried out by Plumbr at Best Internet conference and gave practical suggestions on how to make a website faster for its users. In the global market (and all of Estonia’s web commerce is already competing in the global market), mere milliseconds stand between the winners and the losers!

User-friendliness on the web is a very broad topic which is shaped by multiple factors, but the speed of the purchasing process is one of the most crucial elements:

By analysing the speed of e-stores’ mobile pages, SOASTA’s study showed that a 1-second difference in speed affected conversion by 27%. Amazon’s results are just as significant (although unfortunately not everyone can be promised the same outcome) but decreasing the loading time of a page by just 0.1 seconds increases the sales by 1%.

SOASTA’s study also revealed the sad fact that if a person has one bad experience with slow loading times, then winning back their trust will take time; that experience stays with them and the customer will not return immediately.

Loading time also affects how the customer perceives the brand

 ADM’s experience in creating web solutions for large international clients, as well as many extensive studies show that the loading speed of a website is a critical element of user experience, and in addition to whether a purchase is made, it also has a significant effect on how the customer perceives the entire site and the whole brand.

Tesco studied what happens to brand perception when 0.5 seconds are added to a page’s loading time. The results showed that the study group that used the slower website had a negative experience not only from the slower loading time, but those people also perceived the site’s design and function to be far less attractive and less convenient than the other group, whose page loaded a half second faster, did.  

So how fast does the website need to be?

Our brains love flow, or when things run smoothly, and that also applies to using a website. Interruptions reduce the effectiveness of the work of the brain and create stress. When we’re waiting for a web page to load then the longer wait time is perceived by the brain as an unpleasant interruption and makes us anxious. Studies also show that when compared to faster pages, the brain has to focus half again as much to use a page that loads slowly, meaning it has to work half again as hard.  

How we perceive time when using a website:

So, the literal million-dollar question is: what is the ideal loading speed? Short answer: up to 2 seconds.

This doesn’t mean that the entire site has to load in 2 seconds; loading the part that the customer wants to use in those 2 seconds is sufficient.

Clearly, the slower the page, the more people will move on. Between 2 and 4 seconds, the number of people who quit waiting and leave starts growing radically. We can say that at the moment, 2 seconds is the most optimal loading speed.

Also, this varies by type of page – every page doesn’t necessarily need to be ultra-fast. For instance, it’s not nearly as dramatic for checkout pages. There, a person is willing to wait for a while longer for the page to load than they are on the home page or, for example, when browsing a catalogue of products.

One-off longer load times don’t seem to be a major problem at first, but they still affect many potential customers. If a customer has an unpleasant experience on their first visit to a page because of long loading times, then, based on the studies, we know that once they leave, they won’t come back again so easily – especially if the website has a lot of competitors.

So how is the situation with loading times in Estonia? When Plumbr studied 185 Estonian e-stores, 79% of them had problems with speed. Although this is a few percent smaller than the results from the UK, Denmark, or Poland, there’s nothing to crow about here; such a large percentage is clearly a problem.

What are pages made of and why is loading slow?

At the moment, the major culprits behind high-volume pages and slow loading times are unoptimised videos, scripts, and pictures. At this point, it’s good to keep in mind that the entire company needs to be involved in creating UX – in addition to business and marketing people, the IT department knows how to optimize all these formats to reasonable sizes, which can significantly improve the website’s loading speeds.

In summary, some of our suggestions for improving page speed:

Educate your whole team on the importance of the website speed. Measure the speed. Associate the seconds with money / KPI. Decide what’s reasonable to deal with (ROI). Be consistent. If needed, call in specialists to help.

For more detailed information on website speed studies and technical solutions, ask Riho for the full report at info@adm.ee, or download it from ADM Interactive’s Facebook page.

A summary of Riho Pihelpuu’s presentation at the Best Internet 2017 conference was compiled by Katariina Roosipuu, marketing director at Proekspert, a design and software company. The complete presentation can be viewed here.

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